June 16, 2024

“To all the kids present, I am sorry for the foul language,” compère Martin Ode apologised through an uncomfortable half-grimace.

It was too late – the Q&A session had already ended. At least a dozen kids had already asked their mother what ‘volk, volk, volk, volk’ could mean in English.

But no-one complained. When you’re paraphrasing Paul Jewell it is very difficult to keep things clean, so Paul Scharner and Arjan de Zeeuw can be forgiven for turning the Wigan air blue one more time.

These two icons of Latics’ Premier League era were reunited on Lancastrian turf once more in aid of Joseph’s Goal. And for just one evening, they promised to answer any audience question, no matter how small or (seemingly) trivial.

If they could find the South Stand Lounge, of course. The 7.30pm starting time arrived with no sign of either the Spaceman or Our Arry, who were allegedly lost somewhere within the deepest catacombs of Dungeon DW.

“Quick, play that We Did It Three Times season review DVD again,” whispered Ode within earshot of every soul west of Bramall Lane. Beer-jollied, bar-dwelling back-standers arched their necks to glimpse a partial view of Petr Cech hauling down Hugo Rodallega for a certain Latics penalty.

But despite the stadium’s complex warren of near-unfathomable corridors, our protagonists emerged from a secret side door at 7:56pm. Not a seat remained unoccupied as the two Latics masters finally climbed onstage to delighted whoops and wolf whistles.

Photocall for Joseph and the Dutch Masters side.
Photocall for Joseph and the Dutch Masters side.

The very next, and equally rapturous, round of applause was reserved for Scharner’s iconic sheepskin coat, which wasn’t present tonight, though we were assured it was safely back in Wigan. We would “have to wait” for the following night’s Latics Legends vs Dutch Masters charity game to see if it would make a guest appearance – a wonderful promo for said match, I must say!

After an ever-so-helpful prompt, there was also a brief mention for Herr Scharner’s (presumably) raucous garage party, which proved a much more economically sound alternative to a King Street housewarming reception. Apparently the seating was impromptu, wooden and home-made.

But conversation quickly turned to Pascal Chimbonda, and hence Jewellio. This is where the evening’s 18+ rating was quickly earned as Scharns launched into a ‘folk impression’ of his ex-boss. If there were a single phrase to sum this up, it would most certainly rhyme with ‘four star cook’, ‘good luck’ or ‘Darius Adamczuk’.

Articulate Arry

Yeah, Paulie’s supposed to be the crazy one. But Arjan’s anecdotes were also flavoured with a Barnsley coal miner’s selection of colourful words and expressions. Granted, most of those tended to rhyme with ‘Peking duck’, but they are wholly appropriate for the various ‘oh Friar Tuck’ moments that have pervaded his footballing career.

Like that time de Zeeuw ‘destroyed objects’ in Portsmouth manager Alain Perrin’s office during an expletive-filled rage. It wasn’t quite what chairman Milan Mandaric meant when he said ‘fight for your place in the side’, and before long Arry was back ‘home’ at Wigan Athletic.

Then there was that time he ‘tried to get revenge’ on El-Hadji Diouf for the infamous spitting incident, but was prevented from entering the Bolton dressing room by Big Sam Allardyce. No doubt a Dutch phrase similar to ‘fudgebuckets’ was uttered in copious amounts that day.

South Stand Lounge

In some ways, it’s ironic that ‘Zoo’ now upholds the law as a detective in his homeland. However, he did promise that if he catches any Wiganers disturbing the peace (and presumably town centre public transport systems) in the Netherlands, he will let them go free. A slightly inebriated crowd seemed to enjoy this off-hand comment a bit too much.

But most importantly, just what do the guys like to do when the lights go out? I’m of course referring to the 2006 Carling Cup Semi Final against Arsenal, when the JJB Stadium floodlights failed.

Neither could quite remember what happened immediately after the blackout, though Scharninator suggested he might have been reading a book… by candlelight, we would presume. He certainly wasn’t assisting Jimmy Bullard in his quest to find Freddie Ljungberg’s underwear, so we can assume that’s an urban myth fabricated for JB’s autobiography. Probably.

“I should never have left Wigan.”

The night could not end without a token mention for Roberto Martinez, who had been relieved of his duties as Everton manager just hours earlier. Naturally, both our heroes were respectful of the man who, according to de Zeeuw, ‘can’t stop talking about football’.

However, emotions ran highest when Scharner admitted he never should have left Wigan Athletic. Those with extra long lenses could just about detect a tiny amount of moisture dampening the area just below the Spaceman’s left eye as he recalled lifting that FA Cup trophy in 2013.

Scharner, de Zeeuw and Denny Landzaat receive mementoes from the Supporters Club.
Scharner, de Zeeuw and Denny Landzaat receive mementos from the Supporters Club.

And with that, he (presumably) retreated back to the hallowed DW turf for a quick meditation session, while de Zeeuw ordered a few soft drinks and discussed tactics with his fellow Ticsmen. Both had a season-ending game ahead of them the following evening as part of that Latics Legends side taking on the Dutch Masters at Ashton Town.

What happened next

24 hours later, poor Arry limped away from Ashton’s ground, cramped and cold but with a big smile on his face.

24 hours later still, the dynamic duo departed Wigan once more. Arjan de Zeeuw and Paul Scharner’s latest visit to Wigan was fleeting, but scarcely forgettable. Which is ironic, as I can barely remember anything that was said at that supposedly hour-long Q&A session…

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